The Foolishness of Civil War Reenactors, Glenn LaFantasie, Salon.com, May 8, 2011.
Excerpt: In fact, the entire idea of commemorating the Civil War strikes me as perverse, including bloodless battle reenactments. Why would anyone want to replicate one of the worst episodes in American history? Why would anyone want to pretend to be fighting a battle that resulted in lost and smashed lives on the field and utter grief among the soldiers’ loved ones back home? Is there any uplifting message to be derived from such playacting? What’s more, these "reenactments" are contrived and orchestrated. In order to avoid everyone falling down and playing dead during these battle plays (or no one falling down at all), reenactors decide by lottery in advance who will clutch their heart and tumble to the ground as though they’ve been hit; some of the fallen inevitably try to lie still if they are supposed to be dead, others try to simulate wounded men by crawling away from the scene of "carnage" (if you pay attention, you’ll see that they’re actually crawling to the nearest shade tree), while still others sometimes try stealthily to get their hat over their faces to avoid sunburn.
Excerpt:The Civil War sesquicentennial can give them only one answer: You may try to get it back by pretending to fire on Fort Sumter, as the Civil War reenactors did in Charleston two weeks ago. Or you may try to get it back by joining the Tea Party and working to turn back the hands of time to the glory days you imagine as having once existed. But you can’t get your country back. You lost it 150 years ago. Ever since then, whether you like it or not, the steady march of the United States has been toward the higher ground, the greater purpose, of democracy and equality. And while that march has sometimes been stalled or even derailed, while it has been barricaded, hosed down and even sold out, nothing, nothing, has ever succeeded in keeping it permanently from moving forward. Perhaps, in the end, that’s the real legacy and the true significance of the Civil War.
CWL left these remarks on Salon.com
I have Glenn Lafantasie's books, have read them and have enjoyed them. I've heard him on Civil War Talk Radio and that was fine too.
I work in academia, direct a university library and adjunct in U.S. history. It appears LaFantasie is talking about something that he knows very little about and doesn't care to know more about.
It's striking that his favorite column is called 'Easy Chair.' Scribbling notes on napkins after a meal? Sounds like he leads a pretty active life. LaFantasie comes across in this essay as an academic who is frustrated by being ignored by the larger audience.
His lumping together of Civil War reenactors with the Tea Party is really pretty lazy on his part and creates a strawman argument that allows him to write the last paragraph as a lament.
After all, today is 'his world' and all you Tea Bagging Reenactors are out of place in it. Well, I have friends in reenacting who are history professsors. We not Teabaggers. We are educators.
Personally, I promote Lincoln's interpretation of the war. The 'last best hope', the Federal Union, had to be preserved and emancipation was the best and most just method to preserve it.
Bottom line is if you want LaFantasie's Civil War then pay tuition or buy his book. These damned reenactors are giving lessons away for free! He might have audience envy.
Reenacting is in the 'marketplace of ideas'. I don't agree with the Lost Cause explanations; matter of fact I despise them. I compete for the audience in the marketplace of historic commemoration. I present on Civil War medicine with a regimental surgeon's kit; I present on material culture with my infantryman's uniform. I haven't written a book.
LaFantasie should push himself out of his chair, talk to reenactors, find out that there is a very wide range of opinions among them, then read Gary Gallagher's book on the Civil War and popular culturee, then read Gallagher's book on The Union War. Then start offering his services as an educator to reenactments of all sizes and audiences. When he has experienced this 'New World' then he should write a book like 'Confederates in the Attic' entitled 'Union Soldiers in the Attic'.
Hey, Glenn. Hope to meet you sometime and ask for your autographs on your first editions. RAR
Full Text of LaFantasie's Remarks: Salon.com May 2011.
Image Source: Civil War Librarian, 1860 Pennsylvania Militia with Wide Awake 1860 Presidential Campaign Banner